France, Germany and Belgium blocked NATO efforts to start planning for possible Iraqi attacks against Turkey, deepening the rift between those countries and the United States over the Iraq war.
The alliance would have automatically started planning for the defense of Turkey, but France vetoed the move, and Belgium backed it as expected. Germany expressed its support as well.
Later Monday, Turkey requested emergency consultations under NATO's mutual defense treaty. By requesting the consultations, Turkey is now expected to ask for the planning to begin.
The United States had lobbied hard for more than three weeks for NATO to begin the military planning. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned continued delays in responding to Turkey's request were "inexcusable" and risked undermining the alliance's credibility.
In an interview Sunday with Italy's La Republica newspaper, Rumsfeld termed the French move "Shameful, for me it's truly shameful." "Turkey is an ally. An ally that is risking everything ... How can you refuse it help?"
In France, according to AP, officials said it was too early to start military preparations while diplomatic efforts continued to avoid war. "If Turkey was really under threat, France would be one of the first at its side," French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told reporters in Munich. "Today we don't feel that threat is there." (Albawaba.com)
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